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White Lies

Words and music by Ethan Miller
(Used with permission - from the CD "If All the Land Would Rise" - available through www.riotfolk.org)

White is a tool that was made by a nation
To justify slavery and colonization
To divide up the world into an Us and a Them
The primitive animal savage and the civilized human

“Race” is a story we’re told, embedded deep in our brains
They call it natural order but it’s socially ingrained
Systematic exploitation by division of the people
Into some who’re made as slaves to serve the ones “created equal”

The first thing they conquer is their own people’s minds
The colonizer’s the first one to be colonized
We’re born with pale skin and they tell us we’re “white”
Implying some will live in darkness and this child will walk in light

What color is God in our pictures?  And what is the color of sin?
If two came to your door, one pale, one dark-skinned
Who’d be the first one that you would let in?

Shame hangs its head and guilt tries to run
But complicity demands we undo what’s been done
Name our history, find the courage to rise
Shout it out loud with bold angry cries-No more white lies!

We’re the wealthiest nation on Earth, so they say
But where did this wealth come from ‘cept the labor of slaves?
All those who suffered and toiled and died
Feeding the hunger of rich white men’s pride

Who works in our orchards? Who picks our fine crops?
Who sweats in our sweatshops? Who pushes the mops?
Who rots in our prisons for the crime of their skin?
Who dies in our wars so that others can win?

Who lived here before us and who stole their land?
And who were the heroes of Custer’s last stand?
Who wrote the history books? Who makes the rules?
And who mines the ore for the master’s own tools?


“Oh I am not racist,” many white folks have said
But racism’s not just a thought in your head
It’s the privilege we wield when we walk down the street
And don’t have to fear each white cop that we meet

It’s the power we’re handed from the moment of birth
When we’re told out pale skin is our measure of worth
“Colorblind” is a code-word for “the problem’s not mine”
“Cause white folks got the privilege to say “everything’s fine”

It’s in the history of our families
In the stories that we bear
It’s in the small, subtle perks
Along the way that got us there
It’s in all the s... we never went through
All the pain we never felt
It’s in the stacked deck of cards
And the hands we were dealt

You know you used to be Irish or Italian or Basque
Call up your Grandma if you can and just ask
We traded history for power, tradition for slaves
Buried our pride with the bodies in the unmarked graves


So who’s really to blame? It’s not easy to say
And of course those in power want to keep it that way
This trouble runs deep, to the core of our souls
We were formed by the power that our ancestors stole

Is it the person or the structure that keeps racism alive?
Well it’s both and they’re nourished by the great white lie
We’ve got to struggle on the inside, struggle on the out
“Cause struggling together’s what solidarity’s about


To play song click here.